Study: Iron supplement during pregnancy linked to improved birth weight in babies

BOSTON — A study published on this week found that taking iron daily during pregnancy is associated with a significant increase in birth weight and a reduction in risk of low birth weight in babies.

The effects were seen for iron doses up to 66 mg per day. The World Health Organization currently recommends a dose of 60 mg per day for pregnant women.

Researchers in the U.K. and U.S. analysed the results of more than 90 studies, a mix of randomized trials and cohort studies, of prenatal iron use and prenatal anaemia, involving nearly 2 million women.

Iron use increased a mother’s average hemoglobin levels compared with controls and significantly reduced the risk of anemia. The study found that "for every 10-mg increase in iron dose per day (up to 66 mg per day), risk of maternal anaemia was 12% lower, birth weight increased by 15 g and risk of low birth weight decreased by 3%."

“Our findings suggest that use of iron in women during pregnancy may be used as a preventive strategy to improve maternal hematological status and birth weight,” say the authors. They call for “rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of existing antenatal care programmes [sic] in high burden countries to identify gaps in policy and programme [sic] implementation.”

Iron deficiency is the most widespread nutritional deficiency in the world. It is the most common cause of anaemia during pregnancy, especially in low- and middle-income countries, affecting an estimated 32 million pregnant women globally in 2011, BMJ noted.

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